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At workshop, participants urge journalists to possess conflict-reporting skills

By Sunday Aikulola
21 September 2021   |   3:01 am
With myriads of security challenges confronting the country such as kidnapping, banditry and terrorism, participants at a recent capacity building workshop on Conflict Reporting

Participants at a capacity building workshop on conflict reporting for journalists held in Abuja recently.

With myriads of security challenges confronting the country such as, kidnapping, banditry and terrorism, participants at a recent capacity building workshop on Conflict Reporting for Journalists in Abuja have stressed the need for journalists to upskill to provide adequate reportage when covering conflicts.

Organised by Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, in partnership with the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), the facilitators stressed the need for journalists to observe safety protocols when covering issues relating to the conflict.

In his address, Resident Representative of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Dr. Vladimir Kreck, observed that the security situation in the country has worsened in the past few months.

According to him, “when I resumed operation, we could hardly travel without security escorts or provisions. Many Nigerians are afraid to use their cars to travel across the country. There is insecurity in Nigeria’s northwest, northeast, southeast and south-west.”

While saying that it is important for journalists to report these conflicts, he disclosed that the idea of organising a workshop of such nature was suggested by Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Army, Abdulrazak Namdas.

In his remarks, Publisher, Premium Times, Dapo Olorunyomi, hinted that a journalist’s first obligation “is to the truth, and their loyalty is to the people and not the government or their spokespersons.”

Namdas noted that it is the duty of the media to help investigate if those causing mayhem in the Northeast should be called bandits or terrorists.

He said, “We should be able to define who is actually a terrorist or cattle rustlers because those who are called bandits have moved one step forward and now have the kind of sophisticated weapon they use. If a bandit can go to the extent of bringing down a fighter jet, it is no longer banditry but terrorism.

“The media should help to unravel the identity of these people, this is more than banditry, and calling them by their right name would help us to tackle them. If I don’t have the knowledge of who these people are, it means even in terms of resource allocation, there is no way we can allocate resources.”

In his presentation, Prof. Olawale Albert of the University of Ibadan, who spoke on Conflict Roots, Causes and Triggers, identified five types of conflicts: Relationship Conflicts, Data Conflicts, Structural Conflicts, Value Conflicts and Interest Conflicts.

He said the media could be a possible trigger, when, for instance, a reporter’s story on a conflict could be the sole information available to his audience but how this is framed can sway the audience in favour of one party or one solution over another; it could escalate the conflict or deescalate it.

Conclusively, he said causes, roots and triggers of conflict make conflict reporting very challenging. Better knowledge, skills and passion are needed.

Similarly, Dapo Olorunyomi, who spoke on ethics in conflict reporting, said the defence of democratic values and institutions are at the core of true journalistic ethics.

He said, “ethics matter to journalists because they relate to normative questions through which we practice reflective engagement of the most urgent questions of the society in the light of where we have been and where we hope to be tomorrow.”

According to him, “to manage ethics meaningfully for the journalists, we must locate it in the dynamics of democracy and human rights. If the journalists cannot do their job with professionalism, they are compromised ab initio. The tools of freedom of expression are the best guarantee in the situation and we are reminded again that they are: media freedom, the safety of the journalist, media pluralism, and media independence.”

Also, speaking on The Role of State Institutions and Media in Conflicts, Prof. Abiodun Adeniyi of the Mass Communication Baze, Department University, Abuja, argued that a conflict is an extreme form of communication.

He said where the media could play a vital role in allowing a peace process to develop is by enabling the underlying conflicts in society to be expressed and argued in a non-violent manner.

Speaking further, he noted that the state approach to conflict is in the direction of strengthening conflict management mechanisms at the community level; promoting reconciliation and stability; supporting minorities’ participation in the peace-building process and taking into account the impact of violence against the vulnerable members of the population.

Director, Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, who spoke on Humanitarian and Conflict Laws and Treaties disclosed that International Humanitarian Law (IHL) protect persons like journalists.

According to her, under IHL, journalists are civilians and it’s a war crime to target them.

Sharing his experience, former Director, Army Public Relations, Gen. Sani Kukasheka Usman (retd), who discussed Reporting Conflicts from the Perspective of Military Challenges and Lessons said there is a need for a robust and better understanding between the media and the military in Nigeria. He said there is no doubt that the media is potent and influential, playing a very significant role in our society. Thus the media needs to improve in the delicate balancing between its objective and professional reporting of news and events with social responsibility.

To curb the proliferation of fake news, rumours, propaganda, and outright falsehood, he added that security agencies must be proactive and forthcoming with information on issues of public interest and concerns. Nigeria, he added, must develop a robust and sufficient capacity to respond to the myriads of contemporary security challenges bedeviling this nation.

On his part, Commandant, Peace & Conflict Management Department Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, David Ojelabi, who spoke on ‘Personal Security of Journalists’, said the job of a journalist is to tell the story, not to become the story.

He advised that journalists must avoid routine and predictable behaviours, assess risks before unusual assignments, informing colleagues of movements and plans, thinking about settings for meetings, locking doors in vehicles and being aware of risk situations on the road.

Shedding light on ‘Data in Conflict Reporting’, a data analyst, Adedeji Adekunle, noted that data is “a powerful tool and challenges our understanding of the world.”

He added, “it really is about thinking beyond your framework as a reporter. Expand your reach. It is a tool that helps you challenges your biases.”

Programme Director, (PTCIJ), Oluwatosin Alagbe, who addressed the audience on ‘Digital Security for Journalists’, advised that nobody should be trusted.

According to her, journalists should use Passphrases instead of Passwords. Passphrases are 20 characters long, while Passwords are 8 to 12 long.

Conclusively, Editor International Centre for Investigative Reporting, (ICIR), Ajibola Hamzat, who discussed ‘Journalism in Conflict and Post Conflict Condition’, saying that journalists must gather facts and verify them; render account fairly and accurately without fear or favour and be transparent about sources.

Hamzat added, “accountability journalism obligates us, even in conflicts, to play the role of watchdog, authenticator, sense maker and witness bearer to events.”